You cannot teach someone something if they think they know it already, and you can't share knowledge with someone who doesn't want to know. They are like a Rock - the knowledge just bounces off.We talk so much about developing a "culture of sharing", but that will achieve nothing without a "culture of learning".
The most powerful thing that leaders can do to help Knowledge Management succeed is to drive that desire to learn. If the drive to lean is there, the drive to share will follow. The desire to learn makes Knowledge into a valuable commodity, and where a commodity has value, a market inevitably arises.
But how do you instil a "desire to learn"?
The answer is simple - show people that they could be doing things better.
Building a team of sponges.Sir Clive Woodward, the sport coach and Elite Performance speaker, calls it "Teachability" - another word for a "Learner Mindset". He says
"To have a great team you need great individuals, but you also have to have Teachability ... In business or in sport you are a sponge or a rock. A sponge has a hunger for learning and taking on new knowledge ... building a team full of sponges will lead to an exciting and vibrant environment where new ideas flourish and the norm is challenged".When Sir Clive took over the England Rugby team, he was faced with the challenge to turn a group of rocks into sponges. He did three things;
- He built the desire to be the best
- He showed people, through data and statistics, how far from The Best they were, and
- He bought laptops for the whole team, so they could study and learn about themselves and their opponents.
There is a story about how Sir Clive was working with one of the players, and showed him a flipchart of statistics demonstrating that he was the best player at his team position in England. He was obviously pleased! Then he turned over the page, and showed that in world terms, he was the seventh best player. This was a shock, and immediately the player began to think and plan about how he could learn and improve.
Desire to improve drives the desire to learn
Sir Clive Woodward used the power of data to instil the desire to improve amongst his team, which developed the necessary teachability, and which led to victory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
We see the same influences in our Bird island game, when we finally show people the benchmark data, and they realise how much they can improve. The emotional shock they receive destroys the mental barriers to learning.
Sir John Browne did the same at BP, with his vision that "every time we do something, we should do it better than the last time".
Business leaders can do the same - by showing their teams where they are under-performing compared to their peers, and challenging them to improve.
If we are to implement Knowledge Management in our organisations, then we need to be changing rocks into sponges, and introducing a culture of Willingness to Learn, by instilling a culture of Desire to do Better.
Only when these are in place, will Knowledge Management reach its full potential.